AutoMatters+: Robby Gordon’s Off-Road Truck Racing, Maze Runner & BoxTrolls


High-Flying, Off-Road Trucks

Last weekend was a very busy one for motorsports in Southern California. The fans absolutely went crazy over Robby Gordon Speed Energy Formula Off-Road truck racing – presented by Traxxas, at the Fleet Week Coronado Speed Festival.

You may have read about this thrilling racing series here before, at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. However, seeing these trucks race at the wide-open track at Naval Air Station North Island, on Coronado in San Diego County, was another experience entirely. From the grandstands, fans could see almost the entire track.

These trucks are like fire-breathing, living beasts. As they turn they lean wildly and rear up like charging horses, with their huge, deeply-treaded tires clawing desperately for grip. You really need to see and hear this in-person to fully appreciate the awesome spectacle of it.

If that is not enough for you, this is a full-contact sport. Pieces of bodywork fly as the laps count down to what is always an exciting finish (Robby won the feature).

Oh, did I forget to mention that the courses also include large, metal jump ramps! Yes, the trucks leap high through the air multiple times – sometimes side-by-side, right in front of the grandstands.

Will all due respect to the Coronado Speed Festival’s historic auto racing, the two Sunday performances of Robby Gordon’s off-road trucks absolutely stole the show. Hopefully they will be back again next year.

The Maze Runner

“The Maze Runner” is a story about a bunch of boys who have been trapped – some for years, in a rural community that is located within an elaborate, deadly, futuristic maze.

The on-screen execution of the massive maze is technically brilliant and lifelike. The acting is solid and credible. The characters have depth and are mostly likeable. Those things are good things about this movie.

Unfortunately, despite days of trying, I have not been able to wrap my head around where this movie ultimately takes us. I do not understand it and, from reading other’s reviews and comments, I am not alone. Does the plot resolve? What are the larger issues? Are important questions answered? The answer to all of these questions is, unfortunately, a big no.

Much of the time is spent setting the audience up for a dramatic conclusion, only to leave us hanging for what surely will be a sequel. At one strange point during the climax of the movie, during what should have been a serious dramatic scene, a roar of laughter swept through the theater.

I understand that the book, upon which this is based, does a much better job of explaining things. Perhaps you should read that first. If you do understand it, please write and let me know.

The BoxTrolls

“The BoxTrolls,” on the other hand, easily makes it to my personal short list of 2014’s must-see movies. Anyone with a heart will enjoy this.

I first encountered “The BoxTrolls” during last summer’s Comic-Con San Diego, where a bug-tasting promotion for this movie was set up in front of a food truck. Tarantulas and other (in my opinion, gross) delicacies were cooked to order, for anyone daring enough to try them.

Its 3-D, stop motion animation style is reminiscent of “Frankenweinie” and conveys a sense of the characters being real and alive.

The boxtrolls are cute beings that wear discarded boxes. At night, during the curfew, they are hunted by humans (in a diabolical vehicle) who seek to enslave them.

For safety, the boxtrolls live much of their lives underground. They speak a strange foreign language and eat bugs – unlike the humans, who seem to have quite an affinity for consuming large quantities of cheese.

A human boy, who the boxtrolls had lovingly raised from a young age, considers himself a boxtroll too. He understands their language and serves as their interpreter. His lack of knowledge about human norms (for example, shaking hands) is comical.

“The BoxTrolls” reminds me of one of my favorite children’s books. That was called The Secret World of Og (published by McClelland and Stewart Ltd. in 1961), by noted Canadian author and TV personality Pierre Burton.

I highly recommend “The BoxTrolls” for viewers of all ages. It will warm your heart. To see how the animation was accomplished, be sure to stay for the credits.

As always, please write to

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Copyright © 2014 by Jan Wagner –




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